Tag Archives: flawed

Beyond betrayal

I read a lot of novels growing up but I was not one for memorizing texts and speeches. One of my teachers in school got me interested in a particular speech in “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare. The speech was one made by Mark Anthony at the funeral of Julius Caesar who was murdered by his close allies. Even now I still remember it and the stirrings it occasioned in my heart when I heard it for the first time: “Friends Romans and country men lend me your ears. I have come to bury Caesar and not to praise him, the evil that men do lives after them and the good are oft interred with their bones….” the speech was a master work of oration by Mark Anthony, and it was crafted as such for a purpose.  The speech was punctuated often by the phrase “…and Brutus was an honorable man”. A little insight into the story of Julius Caesar will help unveil the man Brutus.

The tragedy of Julius Caesar is a story of politics and betrayal. Some of the Roman elite feared that Caesar was becoming too powerful and conspired to kill him and in their own reasoning save Rome the trouble of having a king reign over them (the Romans detested the idea of having a king over them). For their plan to be appealing to the populace the conspirators needed a man of honor to stand with them and for them and Marcus Brutus was that man.

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.

William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice)

Having aligned himself with the conspirators, Brutus was present in the Senate forum when the attack on Caesar began, they stabbed him multiple times, and in the agony of death Caesar looked around and saw Brutus, a man whom he knew to be honest and forthright not shady in his dealings but principled in his actions, among the conspirators and made that everlasting cry of despair in the face of absolute betrayal, “Et tu, Brute?” (Thou too Brutus?).

The impassioned speech by Mark Anthony during Caesars funeral eventually drove the crowd of roman mourners to go after the conspirators and drive them out of the city, by the end of the story, Marcus Junius Brutus had committed suicide.

To betray ; to deliver to the enemy through treacherous means, to fail or desert especially in a time of need, to sell down the river.

At one time or the other we have all felt betrayed be it by parents, friends siblings or spouses. Most have also felt betrayed by circumstances or situations. But of all forms of betrayal we reckon less with our betrayal of ourselves. The betrayal of the values we hold dear, our principles our goals our views of life or circumstances, our political and religious views and other things that make up the fabric of who we are.

We never are but by ourselves betrayed.

William Congreve

For little favors we have betrayed our principles, in order to belong we have betrayed our religious convictions, we have become a people without philosophies or ethos. Its easier for us to quote philosophers and scholars of centuries gone by but we lay no claim to new ethos of living our lives.

In being betrayed you learn a few things, part of which is that every human being has the capacity to betray someone and that most betrayals if not all are done out of a survival instinct to preserve self. I am not trying to make excuses for anybody but it will be nice to understand some part of the wiring of a human being that allows him act the way he does.

Both imagined and real fear has a way of getting people to betray the things that they are supposed to cherish.

So how then do we get over and above betrayal, how do we survive being betrayed or betraying others. Following a betrayal the reflex action is to cut off the offending individual, remove from your consciousness anything that will remind you of the harm done to you. But beyond that, its important to allow yourself the opportunity to heal.

Depending on the magnitude of the betrayal healing might take a while, dont force it but be open to its soothing waves. Its normal to find no reason to forgive the offender, but their cant be genuine healing without forgiveness. After the anger has abated listen to your heart and seek peace, focus on the action that hurt you but not on the individual. Dont rationalize it, dont make excuses for why the individual could have betrayed you, just look beyond the action to see a flawed human being like you.

Reason to rule, but mercy to forgive:
The first is law, the last prerogative

John Dryden

If we relate with each other on the basis that we are a flawed species then forgiveness will come easy for us. It is tragic that of ourselves we have never been able to give perfection but we demand it of others and when they fail we condemn them.

The commonest story of betrayal in the world today is that of Judas one of the disciples of Jesus. He betrayed his friend and master for 30 pieces of silver. His crime did not stop in the betrayal but continued into his hopelessness that he could never be forgiven. The end point of that loss of hope was him committing suicide.

Even as there is a discernible pathway to a better life following a betrayal so it is when you betray yourself in your principles, visions, dreams or goals. You have to recognize the betrayal, you have to acknowledge it and accept responsibility for it.  And then you have to find it in yourself to forgive yourself and move on.

The stupid neither forgive nor forget;

the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.

Thomas Szasz

Life is not just about the big victories, it is the small victories that aggregate to become big victories.

A little step here and a little push there and on you go to becoming a better person.